Dogcharmer: Get those extra ZZZs

‘Special toys’ are a great way to encourage your dog to sleep in.

Jack the papillon is highly motivated by food. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Dear Tom,

I have an 11-year-old Papillon mix that I adopted when he was 9. Jack is very food-motivated, and spends most of his time looking/waiting for something to eat. Otherwise, he’s happy to lay around as long as he’s with me. Jack and our 7-year-old Boston mix Gretta used to sleep on our bed, but a few years ago we got soft crates with nice beds for them. Jack had a rough time of it and whined for days, no matter what I put in there for him — toys, my T shirt, etc. I tried putting the crate in another room, and then he barked nonstop. Eventually, he got to like it, and runs right in at night, waiting for his treat.

Because he has some incontinence at this age, I feed him dinner at 4:30 pm so he will hopefully do his business outside before going to bed at 9:30 pm. Jack is finally quiet all night in his crate until 4:45 to 5 am. After ruling out the possibility that he’s in pain (he’s on gabapentin for back issues), I think it’s because he wants to get up and have breakfast. He’s very persistent, and will whine for an hour straight! When I tell him to get back in his bed, he may for a short time, but then continues to whine until I get up. I wait until he’s quiet for a few minutes so he’s not rewarded for whining, but I end up getting up by 5:30 am, since by then I’m awake.

I would greatly appreciate any ideas you might have to remedy this situation.

Thank you,
Jack’s mom


Dear Jack’s Mom,

My first thought is to thank you for rescuing an older dog. There are so many older dogs languishing in shelters that would make great companions, especially since they need a minimal amount of training, are already housebroken, and well beyond ill-mannered puppy behaviors such as destructive chewing, jumping, etc.

Unless you are heading to bed yourself at 9:30 pm, my initial thought is to try and keep Jack up later with some “special toys.” Three small hollow marrow bones, one with a piece of meat wedged in the middle, the other two with cheese and peanut butter, may happily occupy him for another hour or so. You want the “food stuffs” stuck in the middle so he can’t remove them, but will keep trying.

If keeping Jack up later is not an option, have the three “special toys” ready to be given to him as soon as he wakes up, and he just may give you some extra snooze time as he’s occupied in his quest to get at the meat and cheese and p-butter. However, once you’re up, it’s important to remove the “special toys.” He only gets them to be used as the morning distraction, otherwise they will lose their “specialness.”

Good luck in the quest for extra ZZZs,
Dogcharmer Tom

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